Se­crets Of Longevity

Jo Pavey on how the prin­ci­ples be­hind her long ca­reer can help all older run­ners

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

How Jo Pavey keeps go­ing after all those years on the track


My goal for 2016 was to qual­ify for a fifth Olympics. I trained hard through win­ter but I got a chest in­fec­tion be­fore the UK tri­als in May. I still ran, but the race went badly, as I ex­pected. It was then a race against time to prove my fit­ness, and I strug­gled to get my health and form back. I had one last chance to show form, in the 10,000m at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in June – which, thank­fully, I did. It was a bat­tle this time round, but I got there in the end. I love the chal­lenge of hav­ing an event as my goal. As I work to­wards it, I have mini-goals along the way – such as other events or tar­gets in train­ing. En­joy the jour­ney of work­ing hard to make progress. Usu­ally there are ups and downs along the way, but learn to rel­ish the chal­lenge of try­ing to over­come dif­fi­cul­ties.


One of the great ben­e­fits of be­ing an older ath­lete is that you can use your ex­pe­ri­ence to your ad­van­tage. I of­ten wish I could’ve had the knowl­edge I’ve gained over the years at the start of my run­ning ca­reer. It’s not just learn­ing about run­ning as a sport that’s help­ful, it’s also know­ing about your own body and what works for you in train­ing and rac­ing. As the years have gone by I’ve be­come more aware of how the times I’m hit­ting in train­ing re­late to what shape I’m in, so I’m far bet­ter in­formed re­gard­ing which as­pects of my train­ing need im­prov­ing in the lead-up to an event. Even if you have taken up run­ning later in life and are rel­a­tively new to the sport, your ma­tu­rity can help you to make wise de­ci­sions in your ap­proach to health and fit­ness.


Main­tain your over­all flex­i­bil­ity to help pre­vent in­jury and avoid age-re­lated de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in your stride length. Lightly stretch all the mus­cle groups be­fore your run and more thor­oughly af­ter­wards. Be­fore a hard ses­sion or race, stretch after both the warm-up and warm-down. I also go through all my stretches each night be­fore I go to bed. It doesn’t take long and al­lows me to iden­tify any mus­cle tight­ness, and re­duces tight­en­ing up overnight.


Eat a good, bal­anced diet, with plenty of pro­tein, carbs and fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles to en­sure you get the nu­tri­ents and fuel to re­cover from train­ing and to be ready for your next ses­sion. You don’t have to deny your­self treats, it’s all about a

In­juries are part of the sport, but how you deal with them can af­fect the im­pact they have. Be pos­i­tive and main­tain the be­lief you’ll re­turn to fit­ness

healthy bal­ance. I’ve al­ways eaten well, which I think is one of the fac­tors that has en­abled me to keep com­pet­ing. Dur­ing my time as an ath­lete, I have seen the ca­reers of promis­ing dis­tance run­ners cut short be­cause of ex­ces­sive di­et­ing.


It be­comes more im­por­tant to lis­ten to your body as you get older. It may take longer to re­cover from hard work­outs and you’ve prob­a­bly got lots of other things go­ing on in your life, too. I’ve be­come bet­ter at mak­ing de­ci­sions on a day-by-day ba­sis, re­act­ing to cir­cum­stances and mod­i­fy­ing my train­ing ac­cord­ingly. Th­ese days I don’t stress about tak­ing an ex­tra day be­tween hard ses­sions if I need to, or chang­ing a work­out if I have a nig­gle. If you can, try to have a reg­u­lar mas­sage – I find them cru­cial for re­cov­ery and to re­duce the like­li­hood of in­jury.


Avoid do­ing too much of your mileage on the roads. When you can, make the ef­fort to run on good trails or grass to re­duce the pound­ing of your joints. I do a bit of road run­ning in train­ing, but I do the bulk of my mileage on a canal tow­path or in a for­est. It does in­volve a drive but I be­lieve it’s worth it to pro­tect my joints and mus­cles. It’s also more en­joy­able to run in beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tions.


As you be­come older your life cir­cum­stances can change, whether that’s jug­gling fam­ily life or tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ca­reer path. Al­low your­self to im­pro­vise and be more flex­i­ble with your train­ing. I’ve be­come more adapt­able with the time of day I train in or­der to fit ses­sions around the needs of the kids. I’ve also found great mo­ti­va­tion in be­ing able to keep fit as a fam­ily – it makes train­ing so much more en­joy­able. My lit­tle boy, Ja­cob, goes on his bike, while my lit­tle girl, Emily, goes in the run­ning buggy or on the back of my hus­band’s bike. To help me fit my train­ing in, we

also in­vested in a home tread­mill. Peo­ple are amused, be­cause it’s in a cup­board-type space; they joke that I must be re­ally mo­ti­vated to train in there.


At the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer, just after I’d made it to my first se­nior in­ter­na­tional cham­pi­onships, I had a se­ri­ous knee in­jury that re­quired surgery. It cost me two and a half years out of the sport, and it looked like my ca­reer was over be­fore it had re­ally be­gun. Ev­ery day I fo­cused on my goal of re­turn­ing to com­pe­ti­tion. There were set­backs as I tried to over­come the in­jury, but I made it back and com­peted in my first Olympics, in Syd­ney.

As run­ners know, in­juries are part of the sport, but how you deal with them can af­fect the im­pact they have on you. Don’t wal­low in frus­tra­tion – be pos­i­tive and proac­tive, and en­sure you main­tain the be­lief you’ll re­turn to fit­ness. Get the right ad­vice and treat­ment to en­sure you’re do­ing the right things to re­cover as quickly as you can. If pos­si­ble, keep train­ing, chang­ing the ac­tiv­ity you’re do­ing if you have to. If you can’t run, do a work­out in the pool, ei­ther swim­ming or aqua run­ning, or work out on a sta­tion­ary bike or other cross-train­ing ma­chine. De­pend­ing on your in­jury, you may also be able to con­tinue with a small amount of run­ning on a for­giv­ing sur­face.


Re­mem­ber, run­ning should be fun, not some­thing that adds worry to your life – so al­ways try to en­joy it. Many worse things can hap­pen than a bad ses­sion or race. Be­com­ing a mum def­i­nitely helped me to put any wor­ries about run­ning into per­spec­tive. When I was young, if I had a track ses­sion in the evening, I of­ten found my­self wor­ry­ing all day about whether I would hit my planned tar­gets. Now I try as hard as ever when I’m at the track, but the rest of the time I have other pri­or­i­ties, jug­gling my life with a young fam­ily. If a race doesn’t go well, my lit­tle ones are soon there to keep me happy and al­ways re­mind me what’s im­por­tant. Hav­ing that bal­ance in my life has made me hap­pier and en­abled me to en­joy my run­ning more.

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